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Raiders end decade drought, off to nationals

ASHLAND — For the first time in 10 years, the Southern Oregon University softball team is back in the national postseason.

The Raiders (36-16 overall) were No. 21 in the final NAIA Top 25 poll that was released Tuesday afternoon and shortly after were named one of the nine recipients of at-large bids to the 40-team NAIA World Series Opening Round — a double-elimination affair that will take place at 10 campus sites May 16-18.

SOU was assigned the No. 3 seed in the Lindsey Wilson Bracket in Columbia, Ky. The Raiders will open Monday against the No. 2 seed, 17th-ranked Marian (Ind.) (44-9 overall), which won the Crossroads League title with a record of 31-4.

The top seed in the pod is seventh-ranked Lindsey Wilson (44-12), which took second in the Mid-South Conference with a 25-3 record and received an at-large bid; and the No. 4 seed is unranked Ashford (Iowa) (30-22), which got in by winning the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference/Independent tournament.

SOU has never played any of the teams in its bracket.

The 10 Opening Round winners will advance to play in the 36th NAIA World Series from May 27 to June 2 in Sioux City, Iowa.

Lindsey Wilson has advanced to five of the last six World Series and was the national runner-up last season. Marian last appeared in the World Series in 2003, while SOU and Ashford have never advanced.

Three other Cascade Conference teams also qualified for the Opening Round: Eastern Oregon, the CCC Tournament champion, and Great Falls (Mont.), the tournament runner-up, received automatic bids, and Oregon Tech received an at-large. OIT and EOU are the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds in the Simpson (Calif.) Bracket, and Great Falls is the No. 4 seed in the Morningside (Iowa) Bracket.

Times for the Opening Round games have yet to be announced.